Half of California voters report difficulty paying for health care, poll finds

08/19/2013 12:00 AM

08/20/2013 11:01 AM

Half of California voters say they are paying more for health care than they were a year ago, and the same percentage of voters say their health care costs are hard to afford, according to a new Field Poll.

Fifty percent of California voters say the amount they pay for their family's health care has increased in the past year, while 41 percent of voters say they are paying about the same, according to the poll. Just 5 percent of registered voters say their health care costs declined.

The poll, sponsored by the nonprofit California Wellness Foundation, comes as the state prepares for major changes under the federal health care overhaul next year, including a requirement that nearly all Americans have health insurance or pay a penalty.

Fifty percent of registered voters say paying for health care is somewhat or very difficult, while 47 percent say it is not too difficult or not difficult at all, according to the poll.

The poor and uninsured are more likely than other voters to report difficulty affording health care. Among the uninsured, 72 percent say health care costs are difficult to afford. Seventy-one percent of California's poorest voters say paying for their health care costs is hard.

"Those pretty much are the target audiences for the new law," said Mark DiCamillo, director of the poll. "It's a law that's intended to help those populations, so we will see."

Results of the poll will form a baseline to measure voter perceptions of health care costs once the overhaul is fully implemented, DiCamillo said.

California is preparing to expand Medi-Cal coverage to nearly 1 million low-income Californians under the health care overhaul this fiscal year, and the poll suggests the program is popular.

In 2011, 51 percent of voters called the Medi-Cal program somewhat important or very important, while 58 percent say so today, according to the poll.

Nearly two-thirds of voters say Medi-Cal is somewhat or very successful at meeting its goals.

Support is even greater for Medicare, with 79 percent of voters saying the program is somewhat or very successful at meeting its goals.

The poll is the first of three health care-related Field Polls being released this week. A report on voter views of the health care overhaul is expected to be made public Tuesday.

Call David Siders, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1215. Follow him on Twitter @davidsiders.

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